Senate Dems: GOP Cuts Would Cause Surge In Gas Prices - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

Senate Dems: GOP Cuts Would Cause Surge In Gas Prices

WASHINGTON - With gas prices soaring, 45 Senate Democrats signed a letter on Tuesday urging GOP leaders to abandon their proposed cuts to the budget for a key regulator that oversees the food and energy markets, part of a broader effort to reduce government spending.

The letter, sent to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) on Tuesday, argued that Republicans should protect funding for the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, which would be cut by one-third under a defeated House GOP plan.

"The CFTC serves as an important 'cop on the beat,' working to protect American consumers by cracking down on manipulation and other market abuses that can drive up oil prices," the letter reads. "At a time where gas prices are rising and squeezing American families, we have a responsibility to provide our watchdogs the resources they need to fulfill their important oversight and regulatory responsibilities."

For their part, Republican leaders say the responsibility for rising gas prices rests with the Obama administration, which put a freeze on some offshore wells last year following the disastrous oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Boehner spokesman Michael Steel dismissed the letter from Senate Democrats as an attempt to divert the blame for the price of oil.

"This is just another attempt to distract from Washington Democrats' irresponsible opposition to increased American energy production, which would lower gas prices, reduce our dependence on foreign energy, and create American jobs," Steel told HuffPost. "American families know talk is cheap but gas is not -- and the Democrats who run Washington have no plan to help."

House and Senate leaders have struggled to reach an agreement on government funding for the remainder of the fiscal year, partly because of riders lumped in with the funding bill that would block money for Planned Parenthood, last year's health care law, the Environmental Protection Agency and consumer financial protection. The two chambers must compromise before a current stopgap measure expires on April 8.

The House Republican bill, which the Senate voted down on March 9, would require the CFTC to lay off about a third of its staff.

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